The Union Budget 2021-22 was presented in Parliament on February 1, 2021 by the Minister of Finance, Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman. All eyes have been on this COVID-19 Budget as the race between the virus and the vaccine quickens against the backdrop of the worst economic downturn in independent India’s history and the worst the global economy has seen in a century.
The Government of India’s Economic Survey 2020-21, released on January 30, has already pointed to the need for continuing a big fiscal push to grow and sustain demand that could nudge the economy back to a strong, medium-term, growth trajectory. The Survey suggests that this could boost tax revenues and help India get back on to a sustainable fiscal path with debt/GDP declining. The 15th Five Institute Budget Seminar sought to answer: what fiscal impulses will the FM have provided in the Union Budget to help India catch up with its 2019-20 real GDP levels and simultaneously cut the headline deficit? How well will the Budget have provided for reviving jobs and incomes, particularly for those at the bottom of the income pyramid, in informal jobs, in high-contact services, and in MSMEs? What direction will the Budget set for the longer-term development prospects for India as it moves through its demographic transition and its society ages? Besides providing for vaccinating close to a billion Indians, what will the Budget point to for improving India’s health and education systems, building on the lessons learnt from the Coronavirus pandemic? How well will it spur the deeper structural reforms needed to overcome the scarring from the pandemic, to improve the investment climate and the ease of doing business, and to boost and sustain India’s medium- and long-term competitiveness in global trade?
The heads of the five institutes, the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), the India Development Foundation (IDF), the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), and the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), came together once again on February 8, 2021 in the Five-Institute Budget Seminar in these difficult Coronavirus times to provide a longer-term development and reform perspective on the 2021-22 Union Budget. The Five-Institute Budget Seminar is organized by rotation and the landmark 15th session was organized by CPR, the head of which, Yamini Aiyar, moderated the session. The 5-Institute Budget Seminar series started in March 2007 under Shekhar Shah’s initiative and guidance.